CREDIT: LUKE MACGREGOR
The Queen has discovered a renewed interest in gardening, it has emerged, proving that even at the age of 91, it is never too late to take up a new hobby.
The monarch, who toured the Chelsea Flower Show on Monday alongside the Duke of Edinburgh, was inspired by a garden restoration project at Windsor and has developed an impressive knowledge about plants.
She has taken such an interest in the regeneration of the gardens at Frogmore House that for her 90th birthday last year, her friends gave her plants for the new beds.
And as a result of her new passion, the Queen was said to have been unusually animated while visiting the world famous flower show.
Robert Hillier, chairman of Hillier Nurseries, one of the country’s leading horticultural suppliers, has met the Queen on several occasions but revealed that he was taken aback by her sudden interest and in depth knowledge of the subject.
He said: “She has never shown her knowledge before. We have met many times but suddenly she is so interested in plants and planting.
“She is really thrilled with the way Frogmore is developing. She has now got more ambitious and wants to do a lot more.
“She obviously enjoys going to Chelsea, but in the past she has not been so animated. She has got really into gardening. It’s never too late!”
Lady Elizabeth Anson, who has been overseeing the project, said: “Her knowledge of plants of phenomenal – and she knows the Latin names.”
Frogmore, a Georgian house set in 35 acres inside the Home Park of Windsor Castle, is bursting with tulip trees, redwoods and wisteria. The grounds were designed as an escape for Queen Charlotte, the green-fingered wife of George III, and are rarely open to the public.
Such is the Queen’s love of its lawns, that it has been claimed the five-strong gardening team are not allowed to remove a single tree or shrub without her permission.
As the monarch toured the flower show, it emerged that her knowledge even extended to earwigs, recalling how gardeners used to trap earwigs with upturned flower pots on top of tomato canes.
“‘I do remember that,” she said. “And the children had to go out and empty them.”
She also revealed that, despite having been an ardent listener of Sir Terry Wogan’s BBC Radio 2 breakfast show, she now tunes in to his successor, Chris Evans.
The Queen met the DJ as she toured his Taste Garden and told him he was on her radio on Monday morning.
He said: “She said ‘I was listening to you this morning’, because it was the Chelsea flower show.”
“She loved the garden, she was here for a while.”
As the Duchess of Cambridge looked around Evans’s garden, she proved her down to earth credentials by happily eating a tomato she had dropped on the floor, before revealing that she was just getting into gardening with her children.
The Cambridges are understood to enjoy an extensive kitchen garden at Anmer Hall, in Norfolk, where they grow all sorts of vegetables.
But the Duchess, 35, revealed she has had to teach Prince George, 3, not to eat the fox gloves as they are poisonous.
Describing her own growing efforts, she said: “It makes such a difference when you take it from the ground.”
The Duchess, fresh from enjoying the late night party following her sister Pippa Middleton’s wedding, wore a midi-length £1,500 green frock by Rochas, with an appropriate floral print.
The royals were joined by the Countess of Wessex and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie as well as celebrities including Dame Judi Dench, Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders.
The event, which will host more than 500 exhibitors and is expected to attract some 165,000 visitors from around the world, will open to the public on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Mary Berry, a Royal Horticultural Society ambassador, got chatting to the Duke of Edinburgh and learned that he was no fan of kohl rabi.
She said: “The Duke was asking about kohl rabi and he reckoned it was a bit wet and not full of flavour – and I think I agree with him.”